Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Turbofolk Masterclass

Dear Gazette,

Yes? I've got a Greek travel writing bibliography to mail off.

What's this turbofolk you're always going on about?

Do you mind! It hasn't come up once so far. I did call Natalija Verboten 'turbo-schlager'. But that's the lot.

Well, it so will.

Fair point.

As far as ex-Yugoslavia goes, turbofolk's usually said to come from Serbia, although it's got all sorts of equivalents from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel, and further afield, mixing traditional and faux-traditional rhythms and vocal qualities with modern electronic orchestration and production values. I listen to far too much of it. So do lots of people across ex-Yugoslavia, and beyond. They don't always admit to it, and neither, in fact, do I.

Turbofolk isn't just a musical style, it's an aesthetic too: think bling. For various reasons that I go into at far more length elsewhere, Croatian singers have picked it up very enthusiastically as well, and it gives an awful lot of people an excuse to go off on one about Ceca Ražnatović (widow-of-the-murdered-war-criminal-Arkan, etc. etc.), who's generally taken as the worst of the lot.

It's also worth its weight in column inches: from western journalists looking for exoticism, via Croatian why-oh-why columnists, to academic research like this. The authority on Serbian turbofolk is Eric Gordy, who you can also find over at East Ethnia.

If you've found the Gazette already, you've probably got a fair idea what turbofolk is, and I probably bear most of the responsibility for that. So all this is really by way of introducing a turbofolk masterclass in the shape of the diva from Bijeljina, Seka Aleksić, and her latest hit Sviđa mi se tvoja devojka - aka. I really like your girlfriend - which you should be able to hear from her homepage if you're that way inclined. High on the turbo and high on the folk, if this song started playing when you looked up turbofolk in the dictionary (if there was even a dictionary to find turbofolk in), it would make my life that much easier.

That said, your average turbofolk singer tends not to go

I madar slutim da zbog toga nisam normalna
Baš mi se sviđa tvoja devojka


And even though I hear that I'm not normal because of it
I really like your girlfriend

Serbian pop being Serbian pop, it's probably going to turn out that half the songs on Seka's album originally belonged to Despina Vandi, Anna Vissi and Keti Garbi, the leading triad of Modern Laika, errr, Greek turbofolk. (Remind me to tell you the Despina Vandi-Jelena Karleuša story sometime.) Part of me isn't at all convinced that the three of them aren't some mega-conglomerate the way that British Rail isn't Network Rail isn't Railtrack.

In the meantime, Karleuša-going-Ruslana-going-a-bit-Tatu is a pretty good recipe for putting together my song of 2005.

Of the second half, anyway.


At 12:22 pm, October 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was the Despina Vandi-Jelena Karleuša issue?


At 10:39 am, August 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The term "turbo folk" was in fact coined by a Monte Negro singer Rambo Amadeus. This is why it can not be found in the dictionary. He sees folk music as something that makes "burning of the people" possible, meaning their lowest emotions come to surface when listening to this music. The turbo part relies to use of modern technology to make this burning better, just as turbo systems do in internal combustion engines. :) Btw in his recent interview, when asked if turbo folk is a serbian thing Rambo replied that he first heard turbo folk in London, where 3rd generation pakistanis would buy cheap synths in supermarkets and then use them to play their national tunes.
There, now you know :)


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